Joan Retallack’s Little Universes

From the latest American Letters & Commentary, two poems by Joan Retallack from her project The Bosch Notebooks.


The Little Universe of Infinite Time

Who can say which of all possible things should happen
next. Many were more or less content as many others ran
shrieking out of houses. Many many ran to hide in forests,
mountains, deserts. Many many many ran toward what
seemed to be safety zones between houses, in mountain
crevasses, across closely guarded borders, in desert mirages
and magical clearings in dark woods. Many more were
unlucky and couldn’t get away. The panel poured clear
water into clean glasses and cleared throats. The theys who
survived couldn’t talk about it themselves because of the
nature of impersonal pronouns. It’s said they took to
looking for meaning among frequently misspelled words.
Of course hope springs eternal in the little universe of
infinite time.


The Little Universe of Ten Minutes

Standing at the far edge of another unsettling interruption,
barely visible, not at all audible. Waving, smiling, pelted by
beams of electrons, photons, and other elementary detritus
streaming out of the inception of this perfectly calibrated
world. Hands thoroughly washed, synaptic pruning all
done. Want only to establish the time of the tragic event. It
was five in the afternoon it was exactly 9:30 am it was
eleven o’clock plus or minus twelve hours. She said come
back next week. I’ll tell you the answer. She had said come
back next week. We hesitate to mention it, but next week
had already happened in the little universe of ten minutes.



Camille Martin

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